Did Jesus Exist?

Here’s a good post on the documentary evidence for the life of Jesus Christ: Go here.

  • Korou

    It woul certainly be an interesting thing if Jesus hadn’t actually existed, but I’m happy to agree with this:
    “Contrary to some circles on the Internet, very few scholars doubt that Jesus existed, preached and led a movement.”
    What I would be much more interested in is evidence that this Jewish preacher was able to work miracles and was raised from the dead.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    There are lots of explanations outlining the evidence for the facticity of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Here is one: http://peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm

  • David J. White

    What always strikes me, as a classicist, is that the some of the same people who argue against the historical existence of Jesus, based onwhat they regard as meager contemporary evidence, have no problem accepting the historical existence of other figures, e.g. Socrates or Alexander the Great, for whom contemporary evidence is no better and is possibly even thinner. Besides, what sort of contemporary evidence do people expect there to be?

  • john cronin

    No one doubts the historicity of Jesus. It is just that as far as I can see, he was a bog standard Jewish Holy man who never preached anything that was not entirely consistent with the orthodox Judaism of the time. Read Vermes. Read any of the 19th c German biblical scholars. Read the brilliant works of Donald Harman Akenson, especially “St Saul”. There is no evidence to suggest that the historical Jesus ever claimed divinity, or that he ever intended to found a new reilgion, or indeed had any specific religious objectives beyond purifying and reforming the existing Judaic faith of his fathers. He would have been astounded by the concept of a religion known as Christianity, all the tenets of which were developed long after his death, and in particular as a strict monotheist Jew would have been horrifed by the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation, which he would have regarded as the groossest blsphemy. He appears indeed to have frequently displayed hostility towards gentiles, referring to them as pigs and dogs. His parents appear to have led an entirely normalmarried lifem, and he appears to have had several siblings. All four gospels contradict each other in many details of his life and how and when he is alleged to have appeared to the faithful after his resurrection. This si hardly surprising as the gospels were written long after his death. Read “The Golden Bough” by Fraser Nash. All religions are man made phenomona. We make God in our image, not the other way round.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The Golden Bough is by J.G.Frazer–not Fraser Nash. I read it years ago while studying T.S.Eliot’s work. Very interesting book, but of course flawed by a now out dated anthropological theory.

      Several points of fact: The majority of the New Testament was completed within 20 years– 30 years at most– of Jesus Christ’s death. All of it was completed within 60 years of his death. Where did you get the idea that this was a “long time”? There were many eyewitnesses still living when the NT was written. This would be like us writing about events that happened in 1982. If there were many witnesses of the events, then the clear exposition of Christ’s divinity within the epistles of St Paul would have been disputed. They were not. In fact St Paul says he met with Peter, James and John to validate his theology and teaching about Christ.

      The claims of Christ’s divinity were clear in the epistles of St Paul completed well within 30 years of Christ’s death and any unbiased study of the gospel accounts (Vermes is just about the most biased Biblical “scholar” I have ever met) will show how Jesus Christ’s words and actions echo his claims of divinity on practically every page of the gospel.

    • Anil Wang

      John, even if you discount every claim makes to Divinity in the New Testament, you really have a hard time explaining away John 6:53-66. Even an skeptical atheist reading which tries to discredit Christianity reads it the way Catholics do (see the comment on this section in http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/jn/6.html).

      There are ample Early Church and secular writing antigonistic to Christianity that states that Christians believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus.

      If Jesus was just an unorthodox rabbi, the belief in the Eucharist would be nonsense. It was embarassing nonsense since eating blood was forbidden by Leviticus as an abomination, which is why so many people left Jesus. What’s more people died for this unpopular nonsense that no self respecting Jew (like all the apostles) would invent.

  • john cronin

    From a very good artciel by Joseph Allen in Taki Mag:

    Technically, Christians commemorate Christ’s death on Good Friday. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Sunday. This is the most sacred time of the year for many Christians. If they read their scriptures carefully, there would be nothing more troubling to modern biblical literalists than when and how the Gospels say the crucifixion happened. It is obvious to me that these Christians don’t, and it’s likely they don’t want to know. Maybe they have good reasons. For all I know, you’ll go to hell merely for reading this.

    Easter hops around the calendar from year to year in tandem with the Jewish Passover. This is because the Bible says that Jesus died on the day after Passover. Or was it the day before?
    “Fundamentalists really take the fun out of biblical discussions for me.”

    That depends on which Gospel account you would rather believe. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus eats his final Passover meal with his disciples, during which he institutes the Lord’s Supper. The next morning, he is crucified. Mark even checks his sundial:

    It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25)

    Yet according to the Book of John, Jesus’s last supper is not a Passover meal. Pilate condemns Jesus to death the day before Passover, at the exact time of day when the sacrificial lambs are being slaughtered at the temple:

    Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” (John 19:14)

    In the next passage, Jesus carries the cross to Golgotha—by himself, according to John—and is crucified. Where was Simon of Cyrene to help shoulder the burden? He only helped in the first three Gospels. From there, the astute reader can collect contradictions like trading cards.

    What were Jesus’s last words before he died? In Matthew and Mark, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Luke, he is more hopeful: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” In John, he simply declares: “It is finished.” After that, the versions of his resurrection spin off in four different directions.

    If the crucifixion is the most important event in the Bible—and the Bible is the most important book ever written—then why don’t the Gospel narratives line up? And why do ministers routinely avoid the subject?

    esus’s biographies were passed down through an oral tradition for decades before they were put down on parchment. Each of these four accounts was used by separate Christian communities which held dramatically different ideas about who Jesus was and what his death and resurrection meant. This created ample opportunity for permutations in the story before they were gradually wedded into an orthodox canon.

    From beginning to end, the Book of John bears little resemblance to the other three Gospels, which in turn show subtle variations between each other. John is the only Gospel that refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, emphasizing his “glorification” on the cross as a sacrificial act. By having Jesus crucified on the day of Preparation—while the lambs were being killed at the temple—the author implies that Jesus was a cosmic substitution for animal sacrifice. Just as the lambs’ blood protected the Hebrews during the first Passover in Egypt, so does Jesus’s blood save each believer from eternal death. It appears that the author—or the author’s oral source—was willing to alter the details in order to make this connection. All of the Gospel writers bend Jesus’s story to fit their own perspectives. It’s called selective memory.

    Fundamentalists never address these glaring discrepancies. They cling to biblical inerrancy as though the universe would collapse into the vacuum of reasoned inquiry if they started asking questions. This wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t for their evangelical mandate to badger the rest of us with holy-rolling enthusiasm. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if they would actually read their Bibles.

    Fundamentalists tend to ignore everything in the “inerrant” scripture besides a few choice passages such as the “literal” creation story in Genesis, the assurance that only Christians go to heaven (“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”), or the simple formula for getting there (“…whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”). Any wiggle room for metaphorical interpretation is immediately crushed by their classic conversation-stopper at the dinner table: “God does not make mistakes.” That’s when I mention how delicious the bean casserole is and hope they’ll let me go to hell in peace.

    Don’t get me wrong: I would much rather share a property line with Christians than with hypersensitive Muslims or chicken-gutting witch doctors. But fundamentalists really take the fun out of biblical discussions for me. Are they trying to ruin a literary masterpiece?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Why are you using so much comment box space to go on and on and on about fundamentalist misunderstandings? Biblical scholars are well aware of all these ‘contradictions’ and have sensible answers for them. Why not spend your time reading them instead of being so negative? If you really want the truth go and find it.

      • Korou

        I think he makes a good point – the four gospels were written at different times and you can clearly trace the way they becoem more and more mythical as time goes on.
        Possibly the word fundamentalist is used because he’s quoting an article which he feels has a relevant point to make, despite talking to Catholics rather than to fundamentalist Protestants.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          What do you mean ‘as time goes on’? The synoptic gospels were completed within thirty years of Jesus Christ’s death and John’s gospel within sixty years. That’s not really very much time. It would be like us writing about events in 1982. How “mythological” is that going to become? Not much because there are loads of us still living who witnessed what happened. All this “see how the simples stories of a wandering rabbi became more and more mythological and supernatural…” It’s a load of hogwash which relies on the false assumption that there was some great long amount of time for the gospels to be composed. It just isn’t true.

          • Korou

            Thirty years is plenty of time for all sorts of myths and legends to spring up, considering the type of society they flourished in; and in fact, thirty years is likely much too short. Considering the average lifespan at that time it is extremely unlikely that any of the Gospels were written by people who were alive at the time of the events they describe.
            Furthermore, tthis was not an age of rational cool-headed thinkers who checked their facts carefully. Checking facts was extremely difficult in this age, and many people were not disposed to do it anyway – particularly the kind who were attracted to the early Christian church, mystics and religious enthusiasts.

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html
            “The Gospels cannot really be dated, nor are the real authors known. Their names were assigned early, but not early enough for us to be confident they were accurately known. It is based on speculation that Mark was the first, written between 60 and 70 A.D., Matthew second, between 70 and 80 A.D., Luke (and Acts) third, between 80 and 90 A.D., and John last, between 90 and 100 A.D. Scholars advance various other dates for each work, and the total range of possible dates runs from the 50′s to the early 100′s, but all dates are conjectural. It is supposed that the Gospels did not exist before 58 simply because neither Paul nor any other epistle writer mentions or quotes them, and this is a reasonable argument as far as things go. On the other hand, Mark is presumed earlier, and the others later, because Mark is simpler, and at least Matthew and Luke appear to borrow material from him.”

            The gospels were written one after the other, over a considerable length of time, and as time went on the stories in them became more and more fantastic. The writers of the gospels were hardly eyewitnesses with impeccable memories who remembered clearly and researched their facts thoroughly. They were members of a young and zealous religious sect doing their best to convert as many other people as possible by signs and wonders.

            On the subject of this post: is there evidence that Jesus existed? Thre is some evidence that there was a Jewish preacher who provided the beginning of the Christian Church. But there is no real evidence that he did in fact perform miracles, including coming back from the dead.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            How little you know.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      If you took time to understand the Catholic perspective on Scripture all of your objections would be shown to be pointless. Catholics have always understood the Scriptures not to stand alone, but to be part of the whole witness of the people of God–the church. We have always acknowledged that the New Testament was written within the context of the living, worshipping church. We have always acknowledged that the gospels are the written record of the preaching of the Apostles, and that they are documents of a faith community–not independent biographical historical accounts as we might expect to be written today.

      Therefore, when a Catholic reads your criticisms he shrugs and says, “So what?” We’ve never pretended the gospels were written to a standard of modern journalistic historical reporting. We’re well aware that John’s account is written from a perspective that emphasizes the sacraments and the symbolic nature of Christ’s identity. We’ve always known that the synoptic gospels report the events slightly differently.

      We’re not fundamentalists and we agree with your criticism of their literalistic and often ignorant approach.

  • john cronin

    I find it somewhat ironic that Fr Longenecker should give his loyalty to an organistion which not that long ago historically woulda had his evangelical protestant forebears from (presumably ) Germany hung drawn and quarterered in the public square. Historically – and I mean up until after WW2- the Church of Rome was all in favour of religious liberty: in areas where Catholics were the minority. In places like Italy or Spain where the boot was on the other foot, the story was slightly different (read about the Jewish kid “adopted” by the pope in the 19th c for example)

    I just struggle to see any connect between a simple 1st century Jewish carpenter who basically just said try to be nice to each other (pretty much the same message as most religious or philosphical systems) and the Protestant massacring, Jew massacring, Cathar massacring, bureacratic, wealthy, worldly, Borgia containing, scandal covering up, indulgence selling witch burning organisation known as the Roman Catholic church.

    Sure, individual priests nuns and monks and bishops and lay Catholics have done plenty of good to counter the bad: as even a fanatic like Dawkins would have to admit (was he buggered by the vicar as a kid, I wonder?) in health education charity and helping the poor etc. This is true of those from all religious traditions and none. But as a rather cynical Scots Irish Presb buddy of mine once said: “Maybe if it wasn’t for them having so many kids, there wouldn’t be all these poor in need of help.”

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Allow me to inject some facts into the conversation as I have done before. 1. My ancestors came from Switzerland not Germany. 2. The Catholic Church never advocated the punishment of being hung, drawn and quartered. That punishment was meted out to Catholics along with confiscation of goods, tax penalties, banishment, imprisonment, rape, torture, unfair trials and public execution by the Protestant regime of the Tudors in England. 3. The Catholic Church has not been in favor of religious liberty per se, but has been in favor of individual’s liberty to follow whatever religion they wish. 4. There are certainly episodes in which Catholics have behaved badly. That’s life isn’t it? We’re not proud of it, but we’re aware that we are hypocrites–just like all who claim to follow Christ the Lord.

      I have found that life is much better when I focus on all the good rather than the bad. One of the reasons I’m a Catholic is because I have met far more good Catholics than bad Catholics. Sure we’ve had Borgia popes, but read a history of the papacy sometime. Eamonn Duffy’s is very good. You’ll find that there were actually very few monster popes. As for Catholics having lots of kids–sure there wouldn’t be so many in need of help, but then there would also be fewer to offer the help.

      • Korou

        I can hardly agree with point 3; the Catholic Church has a long history of persecuting heretics and people of other religions. Surely this can’t be in doubt?

      • Korou

        The Jewish kid John is referring to was Edgardo Mortara. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgardo_Mortara
        This was indeed an infamous event, and not at all an isolated one. It wasn’t a matter of one bad person doing a bad thing; it was a matter of evil done by good people acting out of sincere religious motives. It wasn’t just a rotten apple in the barrel; the problem was with the whole barrel – Catholics kidnapping Jewish children who had been baptised unwittingly or unwillingly.
        Saying “let’s not focus on the bad” sounds very much like “never mind, let’s forget the mistakes of the past and move on.” Some things should be remembered.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          I did not advocate forgetting the bad things, but for the sake of fairness one has also to consider all the good things, and the good done by Catholics down through history far, far outweighs the bad. The good accomplished by atheists however…compared to the genocide, tyranny, cultural destruction…There’s just no contest.

          • Korou

            You’re right – no contest at all. I can’t think of a single atrocity that has been committed in the name of atheism, and can think of quite a few that have been committed in the name of of Christianity, and specifically Catholicism.
            I would never hold theism responsible for evils done. One would first have to ask what kind of theist performed the actions and why. A Muslim? A Catholic? A Hindu?
            In the case of Catholics we can clearly see if their religion was responsible for the evil done or not. Often they will say that it was and be able to prove it. In the case of the kidnapped children, for example, the motivation was quite clearly religious.
            If looking at evil done by atheists you also need to ask: what kind of atheist was it? Surprise, surprise, all of the genocidal acts were committed by totalitarian dictators, not by humanists like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.
            So if you want to condemn fascist and communist dictators I’ll be happy to join you.

            Perhaps you saw the recent debate on the question of whether or not the Catholic Church was a force for good in the world? Christopher Hitchen and Stephen Fry took on Anne Widdecombe and an African bishop.
            At http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewmcfbrown/100014133/intelligence-squared-debate-catholics-humiliated-by-christopher-hitchens-and-stephen-fry/
            a Catholic writer said:
            “I have just witnessed a rout – tonight’s Intelligence Squared debate. It considered the motion “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, opposing the motion, comprehensively trounced Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke for it. The archbishop in particular was hopeless.
            The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon, who’s a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember.”

            I think the Catholic church should not be resting on its laurels. It has a lot of work still to do. Or to undo.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Do you honestly think that ludicrous, biased and lopsided debate settled anything at all? Who chose Anne Widdicombe and an unknown African Archbishop to speak for the Catholic faith? There are a whole raft of debaters out there who could have made mincemeat of Dawkins and Fry.

            You forgot to add that the totalitarian dictators were atheist. You deny that their genocide was motivated by their atheism. I disagree. Their atheism was part of their utilitarian, ideology. Their revolutions were humanist and secular. They wanted to overturn an established order that not only included the wealthy and the aristocratic, but an order in which religion was established as part of that economic and social order.

            Inasmuch as they wanted to overturn that order they also wanted to overturn the religion that supported that social and economic order. Their desire to overturn the religion was motivated and empowered by their atheism. Why else would their cultural vandalism, deprivation of liberty and genocide include the closing of churches, seminaries, monasteries and convents? Why else would their revolution force atheism on the people and forbid religious education of the young, publication of Bibles and religious literature and the sacking and destruction of religious art, libraries and cultural monuments?

            Why else were priests and bishops imprisoned, murdered and tortured if not for their resistance to forced atheism? Why else were nuns raped and tortured and murdered if not for their resistance to the forced closure of their monasteries and suppression of their way of life? Why else, but atheism, would the armies of these dictators close churches, imprison pastors, forbid people from going to church or bringing up their children as Christians? Why else but atheism would they have suppressed Christian youth groups and children’s work forcing the children to learn atheism in schools?

            Get real. The French Revolution which was humanist, the Russian Revolution which was humanist and secular, the Chinese Revolution which was humanist and secular were also all of them atheist. Everything they did was motivated by their secular humanism–which is another name for atheism.

            Furthermore, ask Dawkins what he really thinks. If he thinks those who bring up children as Christians are ‘child abusers’ then would he not agree with the secular humanists in Russia and Eastern Europe who closed down religious schools and all the rest for reasons just the same as his own? If the same secular humanists took over in Britain and effected the same sort of revolution that happened in Russia, would not Dawkins and Fry and the rest look on approvingly? I think they would.

    • savvy

      John,

      I don’t expect a balanced perspective from bigots like you. The witch hunts were mostly Protestant. They were a rarity in Catholic majority countries. You might want to read wiccan historian Jenny Gibbons here.

      http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/feminist/gibbons_witch.html

      Historians estimate the inquisition killed around 5000 people over a period of 600 years. Protestants had their own inquisition. Luther was in favour of killing heretics, so was Calvin. England outlawed Catholicism, as did Geneva.

      The church has official teachings, even if it’s members don’t always live by it. Apostolic authority comes from the Apostles, not form someone’s dazzling sanctity. The church survives despite best attempts to mess things up.

  • flyingvic

    “. . . who basically just said try to be nice to each other . . .” So this is what the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ boils down to, is it? Well, I never! And to think that a message like that has inspired, and continues to inspire, lives of selfless devotion even unto deat and right up to this day. Who would have thought it?

  • http://deleted john cronin

    Your comments on the English Reformation are pretty accurate. Unlike say Germany or Switzerland where it was mainly a protest against the corruption and nepotism of the late middle age church, and where Luther Calvin etc had large scale public support, the English Reformation was basically a top down exercise by one man, and his close advisers who prospered from the dissolution of the monastaries by having a land grab: there is not much evidence to suggest that the common people had any serious probs with the existing religious dispensation. One of the reasons that Cromwell, a few generations later, was such a mad keen anti papist was that his family fortune was mainly based on the despoilation of the monasteries. I agree Duffy is a very good historian. There were uprisings against the new fangled religious reforms in every county in England, something which was written out of the historical memory in England later.

    However, to be fair to Henry 8, (a rather difficult thing I admit) satisfying his own carnal urges was not the only thing on his agenda: if it had been, he woulda just had lots of mistresses and fathered lots of bastards, same as most Catholic monarchs (and not a few popes) – he was genuinely concerned that if he did not produce a legit, universally recognised male heir, England would revert tocivil war, as in thw Wars of the Roses period.

    Asking the Pope for an annulment for raison d’etat was not that outrageous under the circs, and the Pope would probably have indulged him, if his Queen’s brother had not been occupying Rome at the time. I shudder to think what a bunch of Swiss condotiere (spell check) would have done to His Holiness, had they been given the order.

  • Ed

    I think it was the late historian Will Durant, an agnostic, who wrote that, if Alexander the
    Great and Julius Caesar had been subjected to the same demands for historical evidence of their
    existence, both of those worthies would have faded into myth and legend.

    Furthermore, approximately 100 years before the death of Jesus, the Romans crucified 6000
    insurgents along the Appian Way in Italy as vengeance against slaves involved in the Third
    ( ? ) Servile War. This occurred in a single day. The leader of the slaves, Spartacus, was apparently
    killed in fighting, but not crucified. Even if Spartacus had been crucified, where are his followers ?
    The Roman ruling classes were much more concerned with slave uprisings in their own backyard, and were quite oblivious to the executin of a an itinerant Jewish preacher in a
    semitic backwater region.

    Durant also noted that several centuries later, Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.

    • Korou

      The important question is not, “Did a preacher called Jesus live some two thousand years ago?”
      It is “Did a preacher called Jesus rise from the dead some two thousand years ago?”
      You shouldn’t confuse the two.
      There is a fair amount of evidence for the first proposition, and very little for the second. This is what one would expect, since the first is not at all an unlikely claim, while the second certainly is.

      • Korou

        Here is an article which might interest you. By the historian Richard Carrier, answering a similar accusation by James Holding, who claimed that we have as much evidence that Jesus rose from the dead – not that he existed, but that he died and came back to life – as we do that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/rubicon.html
        An interesting excerpt is
        “The Gospels fail to count as reliable histories because they fail on every criterion, not because they fail on only one or two.[15] I address this issue at greater length elsewhere, including the problems with the best of them (Luke-Acts) by comparing its features with good ancient historians.[16] But to make a long story short, Luke exhibits none of the markers of a careful, critical historian, but instead preaches and propagandizes, and implicitly serves an ideological agenda, not an objective inquiry into the truth.

        For a good extreme comparison unrelated to the Rubicon question, compare the explicit methods of Arrian with Luke-Acts: Arrian records the history of Alexander the Great five hundred years after the fact. But he does so by explicitly stating a sound method. Arrian says he ignored all works not written by eyewitnesses, and instead only followed surviving ancient texts by actual eyewitnesses to Alexander’s campaign. He names them and discusses their connections to Alexander. He then says that on every point on which they agree, he will simply record what they say, but where they significantly disagree, he will cite both accounts and identify the sources who disagree (and he appears to have followed this method as promised, though not always faithfully).

        Now, this is not the best method–modern methods have improved considerably upon Arrian–but this is among the best methods ever employed in antiquity. And it is considerably different than just writing stories five hundred years later. Quite clearly, if Arrian did what he says, he is almost as good as an eyewitness source (in fact, arguably better). But notice how Luke does none of this (nor do any of the other Gospel authors). We have no idea whom Luke used for what information (he doesn’t even tell us he used Mark, even though we can prove he did). We also have no idea how he chose whom to trust or whom to include or exclude.[17] Luke is therefore not even in Arrian’s league as a critical historian. He fares even worse when compared with Polybius or Thucydides. Nor does he reach the level of lesser historians like Tacitus or Josephus, either–who, though they do not give such clear discussions of their methods, nevertheless often name their sources and explicitly show critical acumen in choosing between conflicting or confusing accounts.

        The significance of all this is simple: we know for a fact these historians carried out at least some decent research and critically examined evidence and admitted doubt or conflicting information. We don’t trust any ancient historian as much as we’d trust a good modern historian–all ancient historians get things wrong on a variety of points for a variety of reasons (and therefore, by extension, we can be certain Luke did, too). But we do trust ancient historians to the extent that they exhibit the qualities of a trustworthy historian, such as being a critical thinker with an explicit interest in checking claims against documents and eyewitness accounts.”

        • savvy

          Korou,

          I agree that the Gospels were complied in their final canon in the 4th century by the church. The missing link you are looking for is the early church fathers. Many of them studied under the Apostles. The Apostolic Fathers date back to the 1st century. They are beliefs and practises that are very similar if not identical to the Catholic church today. Just a coincidence?

          You can read them online here.

          http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

          • Korou

            How did I say I was looking for a missing link? I was saying that there is plenty of evidence for major historical figures, and much more for them than for a miracle occurring.
            Are you saying that Luke is a reliable historian because he was following the oral tradition of the Church Fathers?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Luke is “following the oral tradition of the Church Fathers”? I think you need to study the authorship of the New Testament and early church history a bit more. The gospel of Luke was probably completed before 65AD, but even the most radical of revisionist New Testament scholars have it written before the turn of the first century.

        • savvy

          Try reading the Gospels using the four senses of scripture. There is a certain methodology to reading scriptures.

          • Korou

            I don’t think you’ve addressed the point I was making; and although the four senses of scripture – thank you for telling me about them; I wasn’t aware of these four but I have seen them used before – may be a useful tool they don’t change the point about history and historians.

  • dean steinlage

    I would say that there were large elements of a land grab in Germany and Switzerland also

  • Bogart

    May I recommend the website Bedes Library if people want discussion about the historicity of Christ. The discussion board is very good for anyone interested in history, philosophy, science and religion. It has contributors of all faiths and none who interact with rather more courtesy than some sites I have seen :-)

  • Korou

    It’s taken me a few days to read the article you posted by Peter Kreeft. Thank you for sharing it; it was very interesting.
    Kreeft says: “We believe Christ’s resurrection can be proved with at least as much certainty as any universally believed and well-documented event in ancient history.” His intention seems to be to prove that if the Resurrection is investigated using historical methods it stands up to the investigation; that it can be shown that it is impossible for any other theory to account for it.
    This is the right thing for Kreeft to aim for; examine the evidence carefully, consider each side of the story, and investigate the possibilities to discover the truth. If he succeeds, as he obviously feels that he has (“The historical evidence is massive enough to convince the open-minded inquirer. By analogy with any other historical event, the resurrection has eminently credible evidence behind it. To disbelieve it, you must deliberately make an exception to the rules you use everywhere else in history,”) then any “open-minded inquirer,” on reading his article, would have no choice to but to convert to Christianity.

    So, I read it; with an open mind.
    And what I found was that Kreeft’s arguments were always very nearly true – but almost every single one with flaws in it.
    I was assisted in this by reading articles by the historian Richard Carrier. Of particular interest, which answers many though not all of Kreeft’s points directly, was “Was Christianity too improbable to be false?” http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/

    What Kreeft needs to do, in order to prove that the Resurrection happened, if to show how it is impossible for anything else to have happened. This is the proper approach to investigating a miracle; are there any other possible explanations? If there are, then we need not prefer the supernatural one.
    Here are the problems I have with the way Kreeft goes about things:
    First, he prefers an extremely simplified means of argument; over-simplifying, in fact. He starts off by setting out what he calls five possible explanations for what happened – one of them being that it did in fact happen, Christianity. The other four are stated in simplified terms which makes them easier to knock over – not exactly the same as strawmen, but certainly not stated in a helpful way.
    Second are the simplifications Kreeft uses in the way he explains why none of these four were possible, and dismisses skeptics’ arguments. Kreeft seems to have some strange ideas about the way people think, how societies work, and how historians behave; if someone says something, he takes it at face value. If the Bible says something happened, he believes that it happened. He never mentions biases or prejudices, never evaluates a source or considers conflicts in them. He seems to be imagining a world in which people always tell the truth, always think carefully and check their facts before believing something, and always do what they have been told to do and what they said they would or did do. A world, in short, which makes the resurrection much more plausible, but is quite unrealistic. He takes the most advantageous possibility in each case, and declares it to be the only one.
    There’s not enough space to go over each of Kreeft’s points, but let’s look at some examples.

    Refutation of the Swoon Theory: Nine Arguments
    (5) The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even “doubting Thomas,” that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conquerer of death.
    Comment: Very little is psychologically impossible. Is it hard to imagine the disciples, should they have found Jesus to be alive after all, even if at death’s door, to be filled with delight, and resolved to make up for their failures? To have such a need to prove that they were not, in fact, wrong, that they might use the “swooning” Christ as the centerpiece for a narrative that they could then weave?
    Let’s not miss the main point here: “Psychologically impossible” is a phrase quite out of place and seriously misleading. This is an example of the way that Kreeft goes about minimizing objections and ensuring that the data reaches the conclusions he apparently wishes it to.

    (6) How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse? Or by unarmed disciples?
    Comment: again, it may be unlikely that they were, but that’s not enough. Kreeft has to show that it was impossible for this to have happened. There’s all sorts of ways the Roman guards might have been overpowered. Maybe they saw a bloody Jesus coming out and were afraid; maybe the disciples crept up on them; maybe Jesus pushed the stone over (it would not be impossible to do that, even if it would have been impossible for one man to have rolled it into) and it fell on them. Who knows? The important thing is that Kreeft doesn’t consider these, doesn’t even notice them as possibilities.

    (7) The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable. Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives.
    Comment: I’m not saying that this is what happened, I’m not even saying that this is what is likely to have happened. But Kreeft needs to prove it couldn’t have happened. Maybe the guards were drugged? Maybe they just did fall asleep? Maybe someone knocked them over the head? None of these need to be likely, but Kreeft has apparently not even considered them before he declares them to be impossible.

    Refutation of the Conspiracy Theory: Seven Arguments
    (2) If they (the disciples) made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante or Tolkien. Fisherman’s “fish stories” are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.
    Comment: There’s a grain of truth here, and I’m not historian or literary critic enough to say how wrong he is; but still, this is another example of how Kreeft exaggerates his arguments to make them more convincing. “The most clever, intelligent fantasists in history” – ? A highly debatable conclusion, and a highly subjective opinion.

    (4) There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. What advantage did the “conspirators” derive from their “lie” ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!
    Comment: There were plenty of advantages to deluding yourself that you had been chosen to spread the truth of God. Redemption for their earlier mistakes; a chance to serve God; a chance to continue your poor friend and Saviour’s work.
    Again, Kreeft is presenting a biased and incomplete version of the truth.

    Refutation of the Hallucination Theory: Thirteen Arguments
    If you thought you saw a dead man walking and talking, wouldn’t you think it more likely that you were hallucinating than that you were seeing correctly? Why then not think the same thing about Christ’s resurrection?
    Comment: Maybe because I lived in a credulous and unsophisticated age? Maybe because I thought that the friend I was hallucinating was a miracle-working Son of God? Maybe because I was desperate with guilt and regret and ready to believe anything?
    Another example of how Kreeft oversimplifies people’s thinking.

    (3) The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place. This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus.
    Comment: Do we have any evidence that these five hundred anonymous people saw Christ, apart from Paul saying so? If not, this piece of evidence is certainly not compelling.

    (9) The disciples touched him (Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:27).
    Comment: Kreeft said: “We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true.” We do not know that the disciples touched him; we know that they said they did.
    And in order to say that they lied we do not have to say – as Kreeft would have us believe – that they deliberately set out to tell a bold-faced lie. That’s an oversimplification Kreeft makes, the better to dismiss it; nor do we have to say that they suffered from mass hallucinations, as he says foir the same reason. People are quite capable of spinning myths out of nothing but wishful thinking and deluding themselves with them.

    Refutation of the Myth Theory: Six Arguments
    (1) The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all the myths. Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this. There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful. The hand of a master is at work here.
    Comment: Mr. Kreeft, this is hardly detached or objective. Non-Christians might have a different idea than you about what constitutes exaggerated events in the Christian narrative.

    (2) A second problem is that there was not enough time for myth to develop.
    Comment: Myths can and do develop over an extremely short space of time. There are plenty of examples of this. But it suits Kreeft’s purposes not to mention any of them.

    (4) A little detail, seldom noticed, is significant in distinguishing the Gospels from myth: the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses.
    Comment: See http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/women.html
    Richard Carrier gives a most interesting account of the position of women in society at the time.

    Objection 1:
    History is not an exact science. It does not yield absolute certainty like mathematics.
    Reply: This is true, but why would you note that fact now and not when you speak of Caesar or Luther or George Washington? History is not exact, but it is sufficient. No one doubts that Caesar crossed the Rubicon; why do many doubt that Jesus rose from the dead? The evidence for the latter is much better than for the former.
    Comment: If somebody says that Caesar fought a battle, and can show documentary evidence that he did, we’d believe him, provisionally. Caesar fought many battles, and there’s no reason to doubt this new story. It might, of course, not be true; and if it were not, would it matter much?
    On the other hand, if someone said that Caesar flew above his battles on a winged horse, and produced independent accounts by several eyewitnesses backing up the claim, would we believe them?
    Saying that there is better evidence that a preacher rose from the dead than an emperor crossed a river is quite incorrect. Kreeft is being misleading in stating the two as comparable.

    I hope nobody is going to read this and say, “Ah, that’s atheists for you, determined not to see the truth.” In this case, as Kreeft himself acknowledged, there are explanations other than resurrection, and it is his job to show that none of them were possible. But when you read his reasons for why they don’t they are clearly unreliable, and so the case for the Resurrection falls apart. He doesn’t question his sources he takes them, as you might say, as Gospel. His interpretations of how people think and act are extremely one-sided and seem quite unrealistic – and even if they were not, his refusal to consider that they might think and act in any other way is equally damning. Kreeft has quite failed to make his case.

  • Wills

    Korou: No, Dr. Kreeft does not have to show that there is no alternative explanation for the resurrection to BE true, though he may have assumed that burden as a way of showing the reasonableness of the resurrection in light of the evidence. For example: My car is in my driveway I may have driven it there, my husband may have driven it there, my son may have driven it there. The fact that you, based on what you know, cannot exclude two of the three possibilities doesn’t change the fact that I, in fact, drove it there. The fact that I am a reliable witness–or my neighbors might be– may or may not be enough for you; unless you SAW me drive the car there you’ll just have to take my word for it. Take it on faith, as it were…

    • Korou

      Quite so, Wills, but there are two things I should point out. First of all, if you asked me which person I think drove it there and your son said he did, on no other evidence I’d probably take his word for it, or at least accept it provisionally.
      But if your son was a baby, and you told me that he drove the car there I would then have four options – the baby “miraculously” drove the car, you did, your husband did, or someone else did. And the only reason I’d be considering the baby is because I’ve been told he did – but I wouldn’t take that seriously, would I?

      Second, Dr. Kreeft does have to prove that all other explanations are impossible because he is maintaining that the “impossible” happened and he apparently believes that he hs managed to prove it. He’s not saying “here is the story from the Bible; take it or leave it.” He’s saying, “Here is the story, and here are the reasons why there is no other way it could have happened.” And I think he’s failed to make his case.

  • savvy

    Kourou,

    Pliny the younger, was not a fan of Christianity, yet testifies to beliefs held by early Christians. Justin Martyr was a pagan convert who debated others in his Apologia, on the resurrection. Like Father says you might have to study a bit more about early church history.

    • Korou

      Why are yoou telling me this? I’m not sure how it’s relevant.
      I’m not disputing that Pliny the younger or anyone else can testify to the beliefs of early Christians, and I haven’t said anything about Justin Martyr.

  • Korou

    “Luke is “following the oral tradition of the Church Fathers”? I think you need to study the authorship of the New Testament and early church history a bit more. ”

    I didn’t say anything about when Luke did or didn’t write. I was asking savvy what he meant.

    • savvy
      • Korou

        I enjoyed Richard Dawkins’ comment. The rest of the article I will have to read and think about. I’ll try and get back to you shortly.

      • Korou

        Well, the first mistake that seems to be there is the confused idea that just because the gospels include real details about real people and places everything in them is proved reliable. The fact that the gospels are correct about Pontius Pilate and Nazareth existing is no reason at all to assume that they are also correct when they say that Pilate knew a man from Nazareth who could do the things they say he could.

        The points made about comparing the Jesus story to other parts of classical history like Alexander and Caesar do not stand up at all. Nobody is saying that Caesar *walked* across the Rubicon river!

        The article accuses skeptics of snobbery, thinking we are smarter than the people who lived hundreds of years ago. We are certainly much better historians than they were. These days we understand a lot more about history; we know about the importance of citing and investigating sources and checking for bias, two things which historians from around the time of Jesus bothered with much less – and the gospel writers hardly at all; of them only Luke claimed to be a historian, and he was not a good example of one, compared against the best examples of his time.

        In the passage quoted you can clearly see that Luke’s aim was not to find out the truth of what had happened but to accurately and faithfully pass on the things that he had been told. The next quote, from John – it seems be saying that the writer was himself present at the events he is writing about. This seems extremely unlikely that anyone would have survived for so long.

        “These quotations do not, of course, prove the historicity of the New Testament. Rather, they suggest that the authors, far from being knuckle-dragging simpletons, set about to write works depicting real people and events—especially since they believed the narratives they recounted had meaning only if they really did occur”
        Not at all. They suggest that the authors were enthusiastic Christians whose aim was to help convince other people to become Christians; this is hardly likely to make them useful and reliable sources.

        The claims about the numbers of copies of the text made do not seem important. It is not significant that the gospels were copied faithfully and frequently. What matters is how accurate what was in them from the start is!

        All in all, this article only serves to expose the weaknesses of the reliability of the gospels even further. I can’t say I’ve seen anything yet than non-Christians have to worry about.

        • savvy

          “The article accuses skeptics of snobbery, thinking we are smarter than the people who lived hundreds of years ago. We are certainly much better historians than they were. These days we understand a lot more about history; we know about the importance of citing and investigating sources and checking for bias, two things which historians from around the time of Jesus bothered with much less – and the gospel writers hardly at all; of them only Luke claimed to be a historian, and he was not a good example of one, compared against the best examples of his time.”

          This is incorrect. Ancient Rome was a lot more advanced than you think. Such snobbery is not based on facts.

          Fr. Longenecker also explained that the Bible is not the final authority in Catholic or Orthodox churches. The church is. We could both survive without the Bible and Christians did for centuries.

          How do you think Christians passed on the faith before the invention of the printing press, before everybody could own a copy of the Bible?

          Truth is a person, Jesus Christ, not just a book.

          • Korou

            I think they passed them on by words of mouth – an extremely poor way to ensure reliability, with changes, exaggerations and embellishments occurring all of the time.
            No, truth is not a person. Truth is an accurate description of reality.

            Now, about historians of ancient times, and especially Luke:
            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/disproof.html
            “…today good scholars endeavor to make clear the distinction between what our sources say and what we deduce or infer, and we certainly eschew any blurring of the line between dramatic narrative and objective history. Yet that line was routinely blurred in antiquity, even by the best historians of the day. This is exemplified by the fact that Thucydides and all his successors felt at liberty to invent entire speeches, based on limited data in conjunction with assumptions about what they thought was “probable” (and that would depend on their religious, ideological, personal, and philosophical commitments). This would never be tolerated today, and with very good reason. Yet this blurring was accepted even outside the construction of speeches, extending to the addition of dramatic and narrative details (as, for example, in descriptions of battles).”

            http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/disproof.html#7.3
            “All the elements that lead us to trust an ancient historian are missing from Luke. Therefore, Luke cannot be elevated to their level.[21] He may well be an accurate historian. But that does not make him a critical historian. Only content like that of Suetonius above can identify a critical historian from a merely accurate one. Still, the quality of Luke as a historian need not be denied here–on matters that could be publicly checked, he may well have been impeccable. That does not mean his information on private matters transmitted solely by hearsay through an unknown number of intermediaries was as good, or that he did not import his own assumptions when describing details or crafting speeches. Yet all the evidence pertaining to the Resurrection was private, not public, and was the central focus of dogmatic disputes–and therefore, of all things, the one detail most prone to distortion by importing the dogmatic assumptions of the author.”

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Is it possible that there are historians around who are so naive as to imagine that they are unbiased and objective? How quaint. The person who is most biased is the person who thinks he is not biased. He is totally blind to his own bias. I have always found that the last person the ‘critical historian’ is critical of is himself and his own foundation assumptions.

          • flyingvic

            @Korou
            “I think they passed them on by words of mouth – an extremely poor way to ensure reliability, with changes, exaggerations and embellishments occurring all of the time.” Hmm. I think that ‘s a modern perspective on an ancient context – which is always risky. In an age where the oral tradition was paramount and when travelling story-tellers could remember and recite whole books of Homer at a time – and where there might be present those who had been eye-witnesses of the events described, and therefore well able to correct any mistakes made by the teller – I suspect that the oral tradition was much more reliable than you give it credit for. Yes, these days rumours run riot and chinese whispers abound – but I don’t think you should be quite so dismissive of the oral tradition that underpinned the written gospels.

  • Wills

    Impossible is a mushy term. In the 19th century flying was impossible and remained so until it happened

    • Korou

      Kreeft seems to be happy using it.

  • Korou

    “Do you honestly think that ludicrous, biased and lopsided debate settled anything at all? Who chose Anne Widdicombe and an unknown African Archbishop to speak for the Catholic faith? There are a whole raft of debaters out there who could have made mincemeat of Dawkins and Fry.”
    Hitchens and Fry. And no, I don’t think it settled anything; public debates rarely do. But it was certainly an excellent thing to happen. The most important point was that they very sensibly counted people’s opinions before and after the debate, and so you could clearly see who the winners were. I think that Hitchens and Fry would have had an extremely difficult job winning the debate if they had been arguing for the other side; gifted speakers though they were, they would have had an uphill battle against the evidence.

    “You forgot to add that the totalitarian dictators were atheist. You deny that their genocide was motivated by their atheism. I disagree. Their atheism was part of their utilitarian, ideology. Their revolutions were humanist and secular. They wanted to overturn an established order that not only included the wealthy and the aristocratic, but an order in which religion was established as part of that economic and social order.”
    No I didn’t; I stated that they were.
    The basic mistake that you’re making is this: atheism cannot be compared with religion; it can be compared with theism. It no more matters if a person is an atheist than it matters if they are a theist; what is important is to know which philosophy they follow – on the one side, totalitarian or humanitarian, liberal or fascist; on the other side, liberal Christian, conservative Catholic, etc.
    So I’ll repeat the point: it doesn’t matter that dictators like Stalin were atheists, any more than it matters that Nick Clegg, current deputy prime minister of the UK, is an atheist. What matters is that Stalin was a power-hungry totalitarian; he and those like him didn’t do the evil they did because they were atheists any more than the Church launched a Crusade because they were theists.

    “Why else would their revolution force atheism on the people and forbid religious education of the young, publication of Bibles and religious literature and the sacking and destruction of religious art, libraries and cultural monuments?”
    Because they correctly saw that the Church was a rival to them in power. And they were of course right. That’s why Hitler and Mussolini, for example, formed alliances with the churches as quickly as they could. Having religions on their side was both a positive advantage and the removal of a thorn in their sides.

    “Get real. The French Revolution which was humanist, the Russian Revolution which was humanist and secular, the Chinese Revolution which was humanist and secular were also all of them atheist. Everything they did was motivated by their secular humanism–which is another name for atheism.”
    I think you need to learn a bit more about secular humanism. As we use it today, secularism does not mean the destruction of the church, it means the separation of church and state. Considering the things that happen when church and state are united, that’s a very good thing; which is what the Founding Fathers had foremost in their minds.
    Here: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=what&section=main
    Perhaps this will help explain what secular humanism is.

    “Furthermore, ask Dawkins what he really thinks. If he thinks those who bring up children as Christians are ‘child abusers’ then would he not agree with the secular humanists in Russia and Eastern Europe who closed down religious schools and all the rest for reasons just the same as his own? If the same secular humanists took over in Britain and effected the same sort of revolution that happened in Russia, would not Dawkins and Fry and the rest look on approvingly? I think they would.”
    I’m sure you do think that. The reason you’re wrong is that Dawkins has said he values independent thinking. Atheists – by and large – do want religion eliminated; they think that it would be a better world if there were no religion. But they don’t want it, as you seem to think, because they hate religion. They want it because they value reasoning and clear thinking, and religion is a symptom of irrationality – which we can all agree is a bad thing, right?
    We atheists do not want religion to be eliminated by some stronger power forcing everyone to become an atheist. We want religion to be eliminated by people coming to value thinking skills to the point where they are able to say, of their own accord, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense; I can’t believe it anymore.”

    • savvy

      “Because they correctly saw that the Church was a rival to them in power. And they were of course right.”

      So in other words, an atheist state would tolerate no one. Communist China still tortures and kills Christians and others. Atheists accuse religions of being control freaks. They are no different.

      “That’s why Hitler and Mussolini, for example, formed alliances with the churches as quickly as they could. Having religions on their side was both a positive advantage and the removal of a thorn in their sides.”

      They tried, but the churches eventually figured out what they were up too. Conservative and Liberal in theology only existed in places where the state or xyz King tried to run the church.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      “We atheists do not want religion to be eliminated by some stronger power forcing everyone to become an atheist. We want religion to be eliminated by people coming to value thinking skills to the point where they are able to say, of their own accord, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense; I can’t believe it anymore.”

      Unfortunately–history shows that when that doesn’t happen the secular humanist atheists usually use force, “These people need to say of their own accord, “Hey this doesn’t make sense”–and we can help them come to that conclusion with a bit of gentle persuasion–to start with, and if they remain obstinate we might have to persuade them to be reasonable in other ways. To help them out of their sad mental darkness we must first of all make sure they can no longer have schools and Sunday Schools where they indoctrinate and abuse their children.

      Then to ensure that they learn to be reasonable we will enforce a re-education program for them. Of course the sources for their unreasonable thought also need to be curtailed, so we’ll close their publishing houses and forbid the printing of their superstitious books. Should they break the law and print books and distribute them and indoctrinate their children then like all law breakers they will have to be imprisoned….

      You see how it goes.

      • Korou

        I’m sorry – please direct me to the writing where a prominent atheist like Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris has recommended that Christians should be put into concentration camps. Since this is apparently what all atheists believe they must have done quite a bit of writing about it.

        What history shows us is that the standard reaction of a dogmatic person – whether a Communist, a Catholic, a Calvinist or a Fascist – is to use prisons, torture and execution when confronted with opposing ideas.
        The fruits of humanistic thinking brought us voting reforms, the US constitution and the separation of Church and State. Bad things, would you say?

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          We don’t need the writings of prominent atheists like Dawkins et al to recommend concentration camps. The fact that prominent atheists like Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao murdered millions is sufficient proof.

          I’ve already posted the process: it begins with sensible secular humanists with an agenda taking away religious freedoms and ends in concentration camps. It is already happening in our society–in which pastors are prosecuted for speaking their mind about homosexuality and religious home schooling parents are told what they must teach their children regarding sexuality. Before long ‘tolerant’ secular humanists will equate Christian teaching that prohibits homosexuality with a hate crime.

          When that happens all the nice tolerant secular humanists will agree that those kind of people should be locked up. It’s not like prominent atheists are going around promoting death camps. The death camps come as a natural consequence of their atheist, secular humanist agenda. After all, they only wanted to make the world a better place. The atheist secular humanist killers were all well intentioned.

          They simply understood that to bring in their brave new world they had to demolish the old. You may say this had nothing to do with their atheist, but if they were not atheist they would not have understood the world and human beings as they did, and they would not therefore have been able to kill millions as they did.

          • Korou

            “We don’t need the writings of prominent atheists like Dawkins et al to recommend concentration camps. The fact that prominent atheists like Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao murdered millions is sufficient proof.”
            Totalitarian dictators, Dwight. You don’t have to be an atheist to be a totalitarian dictator. Look at Hitler, for example. Probably a Catholic – at least of some sort – but at least not an atheist. But what does it matter? He was a mad and evil genius.
            Catholicism isn’t to blame for Hitler, since he never claimed he was acting out of religious feelings.
            Well, he did – quite a lot – but this might well have just been rabble-rousing, so we can let it pass.

            As for the rest: pure persecution fantasies. You know what secular humanists did for you? They built a country in which you can enjoy the right to believe what you believe and your fellow theists of a different kind won’t kill you for it.

            You’re welcome.

            Listen: you have the right to think whatever you like, believe whatever you like and say whatever you like. If someone wants to take those rights away from you then I and other liberal secular humanists will oppose them.
            Which doesn’t mean that when you say something ridiculous like “atheists want to put us in death camps” or “personhood begins at conception” that we aren’t going to say you’re wrong.

            And it also doesn’t mean that bishops shouldn’t get arrested if they commit or are found to have committed crimes. I’m sure you agree with that?

  • Korou

    “How little you know.”
    It might be better to know a little about something than to think many incorrect things are true.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Or better yet, to have studied a particular subject in depth and from every perspective and know something about it.

      • Korou

        For a person who “knows something about it” you believe some very strange things.

  • Korou

    You’re missing the point, savvy. Atheism has nothing to do with it. There are atheists of all possible types of political persuasion – but the atheism that is most famous today, that of Dawkins, Hitchens, PZ Myers, the so-called “New Atheists” – atheism based on reason and held by people who are also secular humanists, by and large – that would be extremely unpopular in the communist or fascist states.
    I’ll say it again: atheism has nothing more to do with committing crimes than theism does. What matter is what type of atheist or theist one is.

    Re Hitler and Mussolini: they didn’t just try, they succeeded. Religion and fascism evidently found that they could work well together, and did so for a considerable length of time, even up to and during the second world war.

    Atheism means lack of theism. That’s it. Please try to get over this false equivelance of atheism with genocide.

    • flyingvic

      Political opportunism makes strange bed-fellows – even fascism and communism were allied at the beginning of WWII, so don’t read too much into allegations that fascism and religion went hand in hand. Leo Stein reported that Martin Niemoller said to him in Sachsenhausen camp, “Hitler promised me on his word of honor, to protect the Church, and not to issue any anti-Church laws. He also agreed not to allow pogroms against the Jews, assuring me as follows: “There will be restrictions against the Jews, but there will be no ghettos, no pogroms, in Germany.”

      • Korou

        “Political opportunism makes strange bed-fellows”
        They certainly do, but since I don’t support either the fascist or the communist types of totalitarianism that doesn’t bother me.
        Doesn’t it bother you that Catholicism allied with what was arguably the most evil political movement of the twentieth century?
        Read too much into it? What is there to misread? I’m not saying that the Catholic church was Hitler’s ally, but it certainly collaborated with him. How can this not affect its claim to moral authority?

        • flyingvic

          Not being a Roman Catholic myself I have no particular brief to defend that Church’s moral authority; but I will say this: insofar as there was any ‘collaboration’ between Hitler and the Catholic Church, undoubtedly it was Hitler who was the dominant partner in political terms. This perhaps reflects the dilemma faced by many churches when Church and State have been separated: do you stand outside and oppose what you believe to be wrong? Or do you stand inside and try to influence and change from within? The Confessing Church in Nazi Germany certainly took the former path; I do not know enough to say whether the Roman Church took the latter. The Orthodox Church in Russia seems to have taken the latter, while the Baptists and the Bible-smugglers seem to have taken the former. I personally knew a priest in Namibia who ‘rubbed along’ with the police and the authorities in order to be able to carry on his parish ministry, while his bishop took every conceivable opportunity to make a public stand against the state’s racist policies – until eventually he went to a conference in another country and was refused permission ever to return. Who, in all these situations, did right and who did wrong? Is it even possible to make, if you’ll pardon the pun, a black and white decision? I guess it’s easier to make that kind of decision if you’re not actually in the middle of it yourself . . .

  • savvy

    “Re Hitler and Mussolini: they didn’t just try, they succeeded. Religion and fascism evidently found that they could work well together, and did so for a considerable length of time, even up to and during the second world war.”

    I would disagree with this. It’s funny how atheists deny that Stalin had anything to with atheism, but are quick to attack theists for people who have nothing to do with their views either.

  • Julie

    Korou, as an atheist, why do you spend so much time and effort refuting something you do not even believe exists? You seem to be searching for the truth. Maybe one day you shall find it.

    • Korou

      Well, Julie, I came on to this particular thread because it posed an interesting question: is there any evidence that Jesus Christ existed? Not wantingo to discuss that particular topic – because I’m happy to admit that he probably did – I asked if there was any evidence that the stories about him were true. Fr. Longenecker posted an article, quite a comprehensive one, which seems to summarise all of the reasons why people think the stories are true.
      Reading through the article and doing some research to assist me, I found that they were not – that far from being the authoritative and complete answer that it claimed to be, the article was full of misconceptions, exaggerations and false claims. That is something I think is worth talking about.
      Also, I often see false claims come up – perpetuated by priests, who should be expected to know better – such as “atheism = genocide” and I feel these need correcting.

      In a nutshell, though, I’m here because although I do not have the faintest worry that God exists I do think that the actions that people who believe in Him take are important.

  • Korou

    If you’d disagree with it, you’d be incorrect.
    Atheism is not a religion. Christianity is.
    Atheism does not tell people what to do. Christianity does.
    The fact that a person is an atheist has nothing more to do with their actions than the fact that a person is a theist.
    Yes, Stalin was an atheist. He was also a moustache-wearer, a man and a Russian. He did not commit his genocidal crimes because of any of these. He committed them because he was a totalitarian dictator.

    Anyway, I hope the argument in this thread has been resolved: there is no satisfactory evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Atheism is a belief system as surely as a religion is a belief system. Belief systems determine behaviors and the belief system of atheism has done immense damage and cost millions of lives. It’s brought about a new voting system and the American constitution? Some accomplishment compared with the endless achievements of Western civilization brought about by a Christian culture.

      • Korou

        Interesting to think that you value the Constitution so little. It’s probably the best thing that American Catholicism could have hoped for.
        And no, atheism is not a belief system. It’s a lack of a belief system. It is, as Sam Harris put it, “nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”
        In other words:
        You: you should believe in God and Jesus!
        Me: Why?
        You: (gives reasons)
        Me: Those don’t sound convincing. I’m sorry, I can’t believe what you do.

        And PS – please stop conflating totalitarianism with atheism.

        • savvy

          You mean atheism is a universal negative. Nothing came from nothing and is going to end in nothing?

          • Korou

            No, I mean that when I hear a strange and incredible story I usually look for some evidence that it is true before I decide to believe it. And, lacking that evidence, I don’t believe in it.
            I don’t know where you pulled the idea of a universal negative from. It’s simple common sense. Probably much the same reason you don’t believe in fairies.

  • Julie

    It is my personal opinion that atheists are not people who have made a decision to be an atheist, but rather people who have yet to make their decision.

  • Korou

    “Is it possible that there are historians around who are so naive as to imagine that they are unbiased and objective? How quaint. The person who is most biased is the person who thinks he is not biased. He is totally blind to his own bias. I have always found that the last person the ‘critical historian’ is critical of is himself and his own foundation assumptions.”

    I think you need to read the excerpt again. Possibly your own bias led you to misinterpret it.
    It’s point was that today historians try to avoid bias, and try to see it in others. They know they have their biases, and they do their best not to be swayed by them. In classical times, historians were much less concerned about objectivity, and thus that much less reliable. And, of course, the Gospel writers never even amounted to that degree of trustworthiness; with the partial and inadequate exception of Luke.

    • Korou

      Which brings us back to the main point – how reliable the Gospels are, and how much evidence there is that Jesus rose from the dead.

    • savvy

      “In classical times, historians were much less concerned about objectivity, and thus that much less reliable.”

      Prove this. Does this mean that the Oddessy, Works of Socrates, Plato and every text that existed prior to your highness should be considered less reliable?

      • Korou

        It’s very kind of you to call me your highness, but all I am is a layman telling you some basic facts about historical practice. airly obvious facts too, I might add.
        Historians have developed their craft and learned about the importance of checking for bias and making sure that their sources were reliable. In the time that Jesus lived such historians as there were were much less aware of these problems. This isn’t my idea, and it isn’t a controversial one. It’s common sense. So yes, that does mean that texts from a long time ago were less reliable. Particularly texts like the gospels, which were written with the aim of winning converts rather than recounting the truth.

        Prove it? Alright. I’ll repost this since you seem to have missed it the first time.
        http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/disproof.html#7.3
        “There is no ancient history that is entirely accurate and without lies, distortions, or errors. Every qualified historian today agrees with that. It is a universal principle accepted throughout the professional community that no ancient work is infallible. Even the most respected and trusted of historians–Thucydides, Polybius, Arrian–are believed to have reported some false information, especially when it came to private matters witnessed by only a few, and when material was important to an author’s personal or dogmatic biases and presuppositions. And the further any ancient author is from these men in explicit methodology, by that much less are they trusted.”
        This is a professional historian explaining a simple and well-known phenomenon. There’s really not much to argue about here. The practice of history has come a long way in the last two thousand years.

  • Julie

    It really is beyond me how any reasonably intelligent person can actually believe that personhood does not begin at conception. I am the mother of 6 children, all with their own unique personalities (many of which were apparent through prenatal ultrasounds).

  • Julie

    Korou, but by not making a decision, are you not actually making your decision? Are you content sitting on the fence regarding everything life has to offer? Is there anything with which you are so passionate that you finally take a leap of faith and make a choice?

    • Korou

      Am I sitting on the fence, Julie? It sounds like you think I believe the odds of there being a God or not being a God are fifty-fifty. Actually, the way I see it is more like the odds of their being a God are infinitesimally small and so not worth bothering about – but if someone were to come up with further evidence to change that I would of course listen.
      In the meantime this doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy debating with people who see things differently.

  • Korou

    Funny – I have kind of the same reaction, but from the other way around.
    Are you saying that this is a person?
    http://images.sciencedaily.com/2010/10/101003205930-large.jpg

    • flyingvic

      Are you not just using a picture to back up a pre-conceived idea?

      • Korou

        No, I’m using it to illustrate a point.

        • Korou

          Funny joke, though! :)

          • flyingvic

            Thank you!

  • Korou

    I think that’s a good note to go to bed on. Thank you for the discussion to all. Goodnight!

  • Julie

    Are you married, Korou? If so, before you joined your wife in marriage, did you analyze every single remark she made? Did you do research before proposing, or did you “just know” in your heart that the two of you were meant for each other?

    • Korou

      Try an analogy: you met your husband online and fell in love with him. Before you did marry him, wouldn’t you check to make sure that he really was the person he said he was?
      Really, though, that analogy is far too sympathetic to the Christian case, but at least it’s a start.

    • Korou

      I hope you don’t think like this when you get an email from someone in Nigeria offering you a cut of a huge amount of money if you’ll help him move it out of the country. Do you just go with your heart on that one?

  • Julie

    Perhaps you are not married. Maybe your mother just told you that it is time for bed!

    • Korou

      Actually, it was 2.00 in the morning when I said that. And I am married, thank you.

  • Julie

    Korou, I apologize for the above quip regarding your bedtime. If, by bringing up the Nigerian land, you are suggesting I am gullible just because of my belief in God, our Creator, then you would also need to address the billions of other humans since the beginning of time that have believed in God. And, as for bias in the recording of ancient history, do you really believe it was any worse then than it is today?

  • Korou

    That’s quite alright, Julie, no problem at all.
    Gullibility is not something I’d like to accuse you of; we’re all irrational creatures about some things, and certainly most people in the history of the world have been and are theists. But we can look at the evidence they have for believing in God and we can evaluate it according to collectively agreed upon guidelines of what makes sense or not. There’s plenty of things that plenty of people do, me among them, that don’t make sense; political viewpoints, dietary, the way we treat people, and so on. Religion is just one of these.
    It’s a fallacy to say that because many people believe something then it must be true. What we have to do is look at the reasons why they believe things and see if they stand up.
    As for bias in recording history – I don’t want to sound like I’m being smug in any way, I’m not; but it is a simple fact that yes, the historians of two thousand years ago did have much lower standards than the historians do today for being objective.

  • Julie

    I am sorry, Korou. So you are not accusing me of being gullible, just irrational. Thanks! My belief in God was not a decision I made on a whim. After many years of my own indecision, I converted to Catholicism when I was 35. I realized that I had been Catholic all along without even knowing it.

    • Korou

      Julie, if you know I am an atheist then you must know that I think you are wrong about the existence of God. Don’t we all think that people who disagree with us are irrational?
      This is something we can agree to disagree on, but it is not something we can both be right on. Either God exists, or He does not.

  • Julie

    I am very content in my faith. Perhaps you read Father’s blog because deep down you are not content in yours, or shall I say your lack of faith.

    • Korou

      An atheist who visits a religious forum usually hears that sooner or later. I’ve seen it happen to plenty of people, and to myself.
      Thank you for saying “in your lack of faith” – atheism is, indeed, a lack of faith and not a religion in itself.

  • Julie

    I am just trying to understand your position better. I consider myself fairly intelligent, but surely not as well educated as Fr. Longenecker in the subjects we are discussing. Do you never long for more in life? Once your parents have died or maybe they weren’t very good parents to begin with, once your children have aged and have begun to move out and forward with their own lives, when you have an argument with your spouse as we all do occasionally, do you not long for that one constant – the love of God or at least the knowledge that there is a God that loves you.

  • Korou

    Julie, if I long for it, will it make it exist?
    That’s the answer in a nutshell. There’s plenty of things I wish were so which aren’t.
    Don’t you ever wonder if maybe you’ve joined a group of people who created a father figure because it makes them feel better?

    How am I going to come to believe in God anyway? Would it matter if I was depressed, or lonely, or unhappy? Does my mental state change the reality of the universe?
    What will make me believe something new would be evidence that I was wrong and that something else is true. No matter how I feel about it, I cannot believe something in any other way.

    Now let me ask you a question: do you agree that it is better to face the truth – that if God exists we should not deny His existence, and that if there is no God we should not pretend that there is? Do you agree that we should accept reality, whatever it is?

    • Korou

      By the way – thank you for trying to understand my position. Please feel free to ask any questions.

  • Julie

    But this is where you and I differ greatly, because I have no doubts at all that God exists. Where you say it is common sense that He does not exist, I argue that it is common sense that He does. I agree we should face reality head-on and nothing should be sugar coated but as adamantly as you deny God’s existence I will be beside you declaring it.!

  • Korou

    Thank you for answering me; if we should agree to face reality head on, then you can see that it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter to me whether I would like God to be real or not.

    As to the rest: do you have any doubts at all that the Catholic faith is the true religion? And all the other people who believe in a God or Gods but are not Catholics – you think then that they all have doubts about whether they’re right or not?
    Because if you say no, then you must admit that you could be sincerely mistaken.

    What I deny, by the way, is not God’s existence, but that there is any evidence for God’s existence. Such evidence may exist, but I’ve never seen it, and so I cannot believe.

    If you think that atheists are all sad and joyless, I’d like to share this with you:
    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=121
    Dale McGowan does a much better job explaining it than me.

  • Julie

    I cannot speak for any other person of any other religion on whether they have doubts or not. I, myself, have no doubts. Korou, why are you concerned? If I am wrong, how have I harmed anyone? I am a 47 year old woman married for 26 years. I have had 6 children and have done a marvelous job raising my children into caring, compassionate people. Their Catholic education has helped me in providing them with the necessary tools to become all that God intended them to be. Do I think that atheists and people of other religions are terrible people? Absolutely not! There is good and there is bad in every one of us.

  • Korou

    “I cannot speak for any other person of any other religion on whether they have doubts or not.”
    Realistically, you can. You know as well as I know that there are plenty of people who have no doubts about what they believe and that, realistically, some of them must be wrong. Feeling that you are correct is not a guarantee that you are.
    If you are wrong, I doubt that you have harmed anyone. But don’t you think it would be a better world if people did face reality more and use their reasoning more?
    If you are wrong and there is no God, then would it be fair to compare you to a person who believes that Santa Claus exists? Would you want your children to grow up like that?

    Apart from that, there are quite a lot of reasons for an atheist to disagree with specific policies of the Catholic Church, which we need not go into here.

  • Julie

    For someone who claims to be seeking the truth, you are fairly quick to jump to conclusions. I think a more compelling question might be what damage has been done if you are wrong, Korou?

  • Korou

    Which conclusions have I jumped to?
    I don’t know, what damage might I be doing if I am wrong? And why would that be a more compelling question?
    Because there are such a lot of things I could be wrong about. I could be wrong about Allah not existing, or the Protestant version of God; I could be denied the rewards of Valhalla because I don’t die with a sword in my hand, or be sent to hell by any of the countless other gods who have existed, and whom neither you or I believe in.

  • Julie

    You conclude that since God’s existence has not been proven to you, he must not exist. You are like a color blind man denying that the grass is green. Just because you cannot see it clearly, that does not change the truth for the rest of us. Perhaps you will never see the truth even with it right in front of you.

    That is all from me for now. I am on vacation and I am off to see the sunset at the beach! God bless!

  • Korou

    Well, Julie, thanks very much for the conversation. I hope you have a good vacation!

    The interesting thing about truth is that it should always leave impressions, clues if you will, by which it can be found, and it will be true no matter what. If I do lack a certain sense which lets me experience the existence of God, that existence should never the less still be confirmable by other means.

    As a parting note, then, you might be interested to read this post – which your “colour blind man” analogy made me thing of:
    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/03/how_do_you_prov.html

    Goodbye! (God be wi’ ye!)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X